Fruit trees are pruned not only in autumn or spring, but also in the summer. If you prune your apple tree in the summer, you allow the sunlight to ripen the fruit. By doing so, you will also ensure a good yield the following year.
Table of Contents
Why prune apple tree in summer
The two reasons for summer pruning are to improve next year’s crop and to improve this year’s crop. Take a good look at your tree before you pick up the shears. The shoots that have grown this year will be fairly soft along most of their length; they will also be leafy and vigorous and will likely overshadow any fruit that is present. The fruit will ripen better without shade. When more air and sun get to the fruit, it will be larger and sweeter, its color will be better, it will be easier to pick, and the risk of pests and diseases taking hold will be reduced (partly because problems can be detected earlier, partly because air and light are healthier than a moister, darker microclimate created by shade and still air).
When to prune trees
The best time to prune apple trees is during the dormant season, which is November through March. However, this advice generally applies to normal apple trees that have little or no shape. Trellis, fan and tiered apple trees have a shape, and therefore should be pruned again in the summer – until about the end of August. In short, the current year’s shoots are ready for pruning when the lower third of each shoot has become woody and firm. Summer apple tree pruning is best done in late summer or early fall, when the fruit has already been picked so as not to knock it off. This also avoids exposing the fruit and branches too much to the blazing summer sun, which could be the case if pruning is done in mid-summer or late spring.
How to prune the fruit trees
Be sure to use the best tools for pruning – for clean cuts that heal quickly. Avoid pruning shears, as they can injure the trunks. Learn how to prune your apple tree this summer in this simple step-by-step guide.
What you’ll need:
- Step 1: Take a good look at the tree and plan what you want to accomplish. First, remove any trunks that absolutely must go: anything that is dead, diseased, or damaged, as well as any strong, upright shoots that are growing above the top layer of branches.
- Step 2: The shoots formed this year – usually side shoots of the main branches – that are about 18-23 cm long, need to be cut back. Cut them back to three to four leaves of last year’s growth.
- Step 3: Cut the shoots just above the leaf joint at an angle away from it. Cut back all side shoots, leaving only the uncut shoots that are needed to lengthen the main stem of the tree.
- Step 4: If shoots have developed from side shoots that were pruned last year, cut this year’s growth back to one leaf.
- Step 5: Cut back any knobby fruiting shoots about 10 inches apart. Thinning overcrowded shoots is best done in winter, but can be done now if needed to allow more sun to fall on the ripening fruit.
Do not prune tip bearing varieties
Tip-bearing varieties should not be pruned in the summer, otherwise you will remove the developing fruit. Summer pruning of apple trees results in less vigorous new growth and maintains the overall size and shape of the trees. When pruning apple trees, keep in mind that there are two types of trees: runner-forming and lace-forming. Each type requires a different pruning method to achieve the best fruit yield .
Pruning apple tree in summer depending on fruit set.
Old apple trees are mainly runner-forming varieties that originated in the Northern Hemisphere. The runners are formed on the two-year-old wood, which can remain for years, but also need to be renewed by pruning. Many cultivars such as Granny Smith, Fuji, and Pink Lady are all lace-bearing or partially lace-bearing. Do not prune these trees in the same manner as spur-bearing apples. When pruning tip-bearing trees, leave side shoots less than 20 inches or “pencils” that bear fruit at the tips . Cut back other branches, leaving buds to form side shoots for next year.
Pruning to shape
When you prune your apple tree in the summer, you will need to prune both types of trees back to the shape or style that best suits the site, such as vase, leading shoot or trellis. Often, this means you’ll need to prune the tree back fairly heavily to keep it compact and easy to pick. Also, make sure the growth is open so that each branch, tip or stolon has its own place to bear fruit. Be sure to prune back the top of the tree and any vertical growth to allow some light to reach the branches and fruit. But be careful not to expose the branches and fruit to too much hot sun in the summer, as both will burn and cause disease and rot. Instead, leave an even distribution of branches and leaves in the tree canopy, preferably on the sides that bear more fruit.
General tips and rules for summer pruning from the apple tree.
- Cut dead, damaged or diseased wood from the tree.
- Remove crossing branches that may later die, become damaged or diseased.
- Remove any branches that extend into pathways or interfere with other trees or plants.
- Make sure the tree is not too tall to pick fruit or to throw a net over.
- Consider developing new scaffold branches if there is an unproductive gap in the tree.
- Leave enough leaves on the branches to generate energy for further growth and enough leaves in the canopy to protect the branches and fruit from sunburn.
- Thin the canopy to allow air to flow to the center of the tree and light to the fruit-bearing branches.
- Cut away unnecessary vertical or particularly leafy shoots, water shoots, and branches.
- Cut vertical shoots completely or leave only a few buds if new growth is needed in that area.
- Thin remaining side shoots so that there is enough room around each stolon or fruiting tip.
- Thin out runners (remove some buds) if they have become crowded or old and unproductive.
- Dispose of cuttings that show signs of disease by burning or completely submerging them in water until they rot.
- Once you’ve done all this, you won’t have to worry about whether you did it right!